Donald Kinsgsbury has hugely expanded his 1995 novella "Historical Crisis" into a long novel. I quite enjoyed "Historical Crisis", though I found it a bit melodramatic, and a bit too rapid. The novel is still a bit melodramatic (in an enjoyable fashion) and also much slower than "Historical Crisis", perhaps at times a bit too slow.
The book is set from 14790 GE to 14810 GE. This is about 2700 years after the death of the "Founder" and the near simultaneous establishment of the equivalent of the "First Foundation" on a planet called Faraway. It's about 1600 years after the formal establishment of the Pax Pscholaris, the "Second Empire" under the rule of the Pscychohistorians called Pscholars. As may be clear, Kingsbury's universe is an update and rethinking of Isaac Asimov's Foundation Universe, with psi powers replaced by high tech, and with a slightly more sophisticated look at the background math. (Kingsbury, to be sure, is a pr Indeed, he is very interested in treating Psychohistory with some seriousness, and in asking how well the secret society of Pscholars can really keep psychohistory secret, and how ultimately stable their rule will be.
The key extra tech is something called the "familiar", or "fam" -- sort of a PDA with extra memory and processing which links directly to the brain. You adjust to it from the age of 3, and your personal adjustment theoretically makes it impossible for anyone else to exercise control over you through it. Pretty much everybody in rich societies has one, and indeed it is all but impossible to get around Splendid Wisdom (Kingsbury's version of Asimov's Trantor) without it.
The story begins with the trial of a young psychohistorian named Eron Osa. He is condemned to death, and summarily executed -- by having his fam destroyed. His body, with its near useless "wet" brain, is allowed to live. He cannot even understand his crime -- all the data about it was in his fam. Soon he is desperately trying to relearn normal living skills, as he also begins to receive strange messages.
The story soon is following four points of view, 20 years in the past. We follow Eron Osa as a 12 year old boy on the planet Agander, as he yearns to become a psychohistorian. We follow Eron's tutor, Murek Kapor, who is in secret Hiranimus Scogil, the member of a secret group trying to develop psychohistory independently and to counteract the Pscholars' efforts. We follow Admiral Hahukum Konn, the second most powerful Pscholar, and an enthusiast for ancient weapons systems, as he searches for a worthy student to learn his eccentric interpretation of Psychohistory. And we follow the elderly Hyperlord Kikaju Jama, an antiques dealer who is interested in upsetting the static social order, especially after he discovers a strange device that shows the stars of the Galaxy, and that hints at a secret planet hidden by the Pscholars. We also follow a fifth thread, as events in the "present" lead toward a climax.
The four threads converge after years for the action of the climax, which is exciting, even though full of math, and which reveals Kingsbury doing some interesting thinking about stability versus vigor in a society. It's really quite fun, and the world Kingsbury creates is fascinating. I quite liked Kingsbury's names: the Frightfulperson Otaria of the Calmer Sea being a particular example. The actual given names, such as Eron Osa, are nods to Asimov's rather unharmonious naming habits. The book is long, and sometimes rather slow, but on the whole it is a good read. It is considerably more interesting than the new books in the actual Foundation universe which were authorized after Asimov's death.